By Jim Kerr

Kids and collector cars: can they mix? The answer is a definite yes! As the owner of a classic 50’s Ford convertible, I wanted the rest of my family to share in my enjoyment of the car. Unfortunately, both my sons made their debut during cold snowy winters, so I couldn’t bring them home from the hospital in the car, but each was introduced to the convertible when they were only a few days old.

Imagine mother’s chagrin when entering my den (garage to most people) to find me sitting behind the wheel with my newborn son in my arms and making my best imitation of motor sounds. Up until that time, she thought boys were just born with that sound! The process of making my sons automobile enthusiasts had begun.

Anyone who has restored a car knows the hundreds of hours of work involved to bring your project to its finished state. Straightening the body on my hotrod Buick has just begun and has already consumed many hours tapping with a body hammer. Just the bodywork and paint on my convertible took over five hundred hours to finish and this car was in good shape to start with! Be warned: a small child left alone with a hammer can destroy those hundreds of hours of work in only a few minutes. I haven’t had it happen to me but there was one time it was close. Rules for Ôshiny’ cars had to be set.

Our rules are simple and easy to follow. Rule #1: Cars and trucks that shine do not have tools touched to the paint. Rule #2: Don’t touch the paint with your hands. This scratches the paint when dust is rubbed into it. Sticky hands also make the car dirty! Rule #3: Ask to be let into the car, don’t open the door and climb in by yourself. And finally Rule #4: When in the car, sit on the seat. Bouncing and standing are not allowed. These rules are applied to all vehicles, not just the ones we own.

I am amazed at how often these rules are broken, not by my young sons, but by adults! I still see people place tools on fenders when they work on their cars. Even worse, I sometimes see a mechanic do it! As automobile repair specialists, I expect them to respect and care for my car. The vehicle they are working on may not have a paint finish suitable for car shows, but it may still be someone’s pride and joy. If my sons can follow this rule, I would think others can understand it as well.

Not touching a car is a tough rule to follow. Attend any show and shine or visit a new car showroom and watch the people around the cars. Many run their hands along the body as they walk around the car. It can be hard to resist sensuous body lines. Others lean against the car as they talk to other people. Keeping the car clean will help avoid dust and dirt scratches, but sometimes you have to ask people not to touch the car. I can understand when a little child touches a shiny car, but adults should know better. It seems they have little idea of how much
work goes into producing that shine.

To give you an idea of the work that goes into a fine paint finish, let me describe what we did to bring my convertible to show condition. First, the car was stripped to bare metal. After the bodywork was completed, a coat of primer was sprayed on. This was followed by several coats of primer/surfacer. Primer/surfacer helps fill in low spots. Between each coat, the complete car was sanded using a sanding block so the surface became smooth and ripple free. Once the surface felt straight, a sealer coat and then a colour coat was applied. This is the point where most paint jobs stop. We had just begun.

The colour coat shows up any imperfections in the surface. It looked good, but there was still lots of work to do. The car was sanded again and the colour remained in all the low spots. More primer/surfacer was used to bring the surface to perfection. Again a colour coat was sprayed and sanded to check for a straight finish. Finally the last colour coat was sprayed, sanded with extremely fine 1200 grit sandpaper, and finished with two coats of clear paint. Sixteen years later, the paint still looks like a mirror.

My sons may be too young to understand the work that goes into a fine paint finish but they do understand it can be hurt easily. Speaking on behalf of all car enthusiasts, I wish more adults understood this as well.

The last rule, no bouncing or standing, is as much for my sons’ safety as it is for the car’s protection. This rule USUALLY doesn’t have to be enforced for adults.

As a automobile enthusiast, I enjoy passing some of my interests and knowledge along to others, and especially my sons. I let them sit in the car as long as they are not covered in something sticky. I let look under the hood, and perhaps most important, I take them for a drive when the weather permits. Rules are important. They let us show respect for others work, but enjoying the efforts and dreams of others is perhaps the most important thing I can teach them as they become automobile enthusiasts in their own right.

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